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Miami University wins senior title in Maine

Haydenettes win free skate, silver medal

Miami University's strong short program helped them win the gold medal in Maine.
Miami University's strong short program helped them win the gold medal in Maine. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(03/08/2009) - For someone whose team had just won a U.S. championship, Vicki Korn was rather reserved.

"Sheepish" might actually be a better word to describe her demeanor at that moment.

"It's nice to win the national title, but that's not the way we wanted to do it," the longtime Miami head coach said after her team's triumph became apparent.

Korn's RedHawks were more or less sailing along in their program Saturday night when, just as they were getting into the final formation, two skaters fell to the ice, causing Korn's heart to skip a beat or two.

That almost proved to be the difference, as the Haydenettes won the free skate by nearly 10 points over their Oxford, Ohio,-based rivals, but the sizable advantage the RedHawks built up in the short program was just enough to give them their third U.S. title and their second in the last four years.

For the fifth year in a row, the Crystallettes claimed the bronze, and California Gold placed fourth.

But just as it has been for so many years, this competition was about the two teams at the top and how narrow the gap is between them. Nearly 20 points separated Miami and Haydenettes from the Crystallettes, and the RedHawks' 0.75-point margin of victory is the smallest ever at this event.

Miami skated to the same version of "Swan Lake" that Japanese star Daisuke Takahashi used for his short program in the 2007-08 season. It's performed by Project Deviations and is infused with techno and hip hop.

"Last year we were out of the box, and I don't think it was interpreted well," Korn said of the "Urban Jungle" program her team used last season. "We still want to be a little different, but at the same time we want to stay in the mix."

Miami's program was highlighted by its circle (2.0 Grade of Execution (GOE)), line (1.86 GOE) and moves in the field (1.86 GOE).

The Portland area is a meaningful one to Korn and Miami, as the first U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships at which Miami competed was in this city in 1992.

"It's cool to win a championship so many years later," Korn said.

The next stop for the RedHawks is the World Synchronized Skating Championships April 3-4 in Zagreb, Croatia.

"Now they have a challenge for worlds. This should make them a little hungrier," Korn said.

Joining them in Croatia are the Haydenettes, whose free skate protocol sheet has to be seen to be believed. Not only is there not a negative number on it, but there are only three "zeroes" on the entire page. Four of their elements (line, moves in the field, block, no hold block) were awarded GOEs of 2.0. Their lowest GOE was 0.43.

"The skate they had today was extremely beautiful," Krantz said.

The music is from the movie Forbidden Kingdom, which tells the story of a female warrior who fights to get back what rightfully belongs to her and her family. Incorporated into the choreography were karate kicks, punches and stances, giving the program a very authentic feel.

"We work very hard for the graceful look, for the powerful look, for presentation," Krantz said.

The tone in the voice of Crystallettes coach Shannon Peterson was a familiar one. It was the tone of someone who has almost resigned herself to the fact that no matter what she or her team does, they're destined to be third fiddle.

Skating last, the Crystallettes knew the task ahead of them was a daunting one, and though they put their best feet forward, it wasn't quite enough.

"The only thing we told them to do was focus on themselves. That's all you can do at that point," Peterson said. "We didn't tell them how well Haydenettes skated. We didn't tell them how well Miami skated. We just told them to go out and perform."

The team debuted a new lift, one that Peterson called its "secret weapon." It's a parallel wheel with four people in the middle being hoisted into the air.

"I thought of in December. They begged me to put it in, so we did," Peterson said. "I fear that it's going to be imitated."

The theme of the team's free skate was Dancing with the Stars, and it included the songs "Ballroom Blitz" and "You Should Be Dancing" as well as a Tango, waltz and a jive.

The Crystallettes skated fairly cleanly up until a couple skaters fell during the moves in the field element near the end of the program.

"Whenever you get 16 girls out there, anything can happen, and pretty much anything did," Peterson said.

All of California Gold's skaters stayed on their feet during their Ironman free skate, and head coach Jillian Janik Cipresso couldn't have been happier about it.

"They were incredible. They were on fire," Cipresso said. "They brought out the strength of that character and lit place on fire."